Queering the Tarot | King of Swords

In Queering the Tarot, Cassandra Snow takes the most common interpretations and manifestations of the cards and discusses ways you might read them for a LGBTQQIA+ client – or for yourself. Read the whole series here!

Great news, everyone! This series is getting a nice, shiny refinish and heading to book format through RedWheel/Wieser publishing! It’s slated to be out in early 2019; I’ll keep this section updated as I receive more info.

Contrary to last month’s Queen of Swords, this King is often seen as lacking compassion. This is is someone so intellectually driven, they can only see that their way is the right way.

This is someone so eager to rule, they will gladly step on other people to get there. This King is peak Air – cool, callous, and so sure that what they are doing is for the greater good that they’re willing to rule out empathy entirely during their reign. As an energy, the King of Swords cuts and cools when we were hoping for something warmer or at least friendlier. As advice, we are told to be as callous as all of the people who have hurt us in our past, something most queer people I know are exceedingly uncomfortable with.

The King of Swords is not all bad – very few things in the world are strictly good or bad, right or wrong.

If you need to make a decision for YOU, this card shows up urging you to think about your own best interests and cut away anything that is unnecessary or damaging to you in the process. We sometimes need a shot of intellect to remind us not to get totally lost in the rush of feelings or passion we’ve just encountered. It can also be a warning; this King doesn’t care about our feelings, but if something that inhibits the greater good is coming, they’re going to tell us. This card can very easily be about clarity and finding peace. It can very easily be telling you to own your power in a given situation. Certainly there are elements of this card that simply encourage us to use the latest technology or trust the latest medical care, and those elements are rarely negative. 

Even so, this is one of my least favorite cards to get in a reading. I don’t like being selfish, even when I know it’s for the best. I don’t like conflict or fighting, even when they’re necessary. That does make this King one of the most interesting cards to queer though. This King can be and often is so obviously white supremacist patriarchy in card form. This is the world and the set of institutions that are so cruel to LGBTQ+ people or anyone who is marginalized. This card, in a reading often says “You’re not wrong. Fighting this is going to suck, and you might lose”, or it says “Well, you were on a good trajectory, but now this sexist or transphobic thing is going to mess it all up.” This sword in this King’s hand might be coming for you, or you might find out that the things you’re grappling with are because the sword has already swung in your direction. This is why this is one of my least favorite cards, and I have seen it manifest this literally a dozen times in the past couple of years.

Yet this King’s Sword is double edged, and like most (if not all) of the Swords cards, there are ways we can still ‘win’ whatever it is we are facing or fighting.

While so much of my work queering the tarot with LGBTQ+ clients is centered on following your heart and listening to your gut, when we are in the thick of a fight, that tactic unfortunately doesn’t always work on it’s own. Sometimes we need to think like our oppressor, using a clear head and an aggressive energy to use succinct and intellectual communication to open someone’s mind or even to beat them in a court of law. Sometimes we need to be willing to pick up that Sword and say “Hey – you – I’m done. I’m cutting this down”, whether that “this” is a rule or law we don’t agree with and decide to fight against or even just that person’s effect and influence in our life.

The King of Swords rarely ends totally happily. In fact, it rarely ends: You might change that law but the system is still slanted against you. You might open someone’s mind but what about the next fifty people? You might win the battle, but the war for your dignity and your rights is still raging on. That’s okay. This card teaches us how to fight, and that’s important whether we’re winning that fight or not. In fact, it’s crucial. We want to know how to walk the walk and talk the talk if we want to survive in our society. The Tower promises big, dramatic change, but the little by little and step by step are just as crucial to creating real and sustaining change, and that’s what the King of Swords can bring if we’re willing to learn it’s lessons as we go. This is a card of cruelty and hardships, and I don’t always believe there’s a higher lesson to that. That doesn’t mean we can’t learn from our losses, sharpen our skills, and eventually, go in for the kill. 

Cards shown are from the Prisma Visions Tarot, the Tarot of the Silicon Dawn, the NEXT WORLD Tarot and the Slutist Tarot.

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  1. Bastian says:

    This isn’t my experience of this card at all! I appreciate the Collective Tarot’s interpretation… It’s about being the wise old bird you know you are and sharing your story. The things that hurt you along the way, the mistakes you made, the injustices you faced, but also the wisdom you gained and how everything you go through in life, bitter and sweet, are part of your narrative. I love this card. It makes me feel like I have the power to tell my story and that others will listen. Even if it’s just a few trusted friends. It’s having the experience and strength to balance intellect and communication with empathy and creativity. Rather than following communication scripts – both the mainstream scripts and the ones we find within our queer and political communities.

    • I love the Collective Tarot and those able to learn on it will have a much different experience with a few of the cards. My series/upcoming book is not always but often aimed at radical people who don’t have access to more radical decks (or knowledge of them) or love the traditional ones but see that they’re lacking.

      Thanks so much for chiming in with other ways of looking at it! I’m really big on “no viewpoint is wrong” and I also think it’s super important to subvert some of the cards. and we do that throughout this series but this is a card that I do get caught up in a lot of it’s tradition, so it is really important to me that others share their view and experiences too!

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